On 6th March 2022, the United Arab Emirates launched the Emirates Reprographic Rights Management Association (ERRA). It is a first of its kind association in the territory which came into force to protect the copyrights of authors and publishers. The association will be responsible for monitoring the use of print and digital works in schools, universities, copy and print centres as well as public libraries in collaboration with certain authorities such as the Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Education, the National Media Council and the statistics centres across the territory. The establishment is a major step in the right direction to promote, guide and execute the legislations related to the copyrights of publishers and authors in the UAE. This shall subsequently increase the creativity among the creators and industries within the territory. Once the creators realise that their work shall now receive legal protection and sanction, they shall be motivated to create more.
In addition to this change, the UAE also reformed its copyright laws to include the concept of “work made for hire”, which is for the works whose ownership belongs to a third party rather than the creator. For instance, the employer will be the legal author and owner of the work created by an employee within the scope of his/her employment.
What are Reprographic Rights?
Reprography is a form of reproduction or duplication of a published graphic image or text. The word is a combination of two terms: ‘Reproduce’ and ‘Photography’. The graphic image or text is published using one of the following processes: printing, photocopying, scanning, digitizing, electronic transmission and electronic storage in databases. The exact definition might differ from one country to the other but the essence remains that it copies the text or image by mechanical or electronic means. The activity is common in educational institutions, libraries, archives, academic publishing and use by government agencies.
Reprographic rights are used in the process of reprography. From the perspective of a right holder, the said rights are secondary. The primary rights are: licensing or assigning the right against a certain amount or incentives.
Rights in the United States of America
The United States handles the reprographic rights differently than most of the countries. Usually, it is likely that the types of purposes that surround reprography may fall under the ‘fair use doctrine’ which does not require any specific permission from the rights holders. The precedents have set certain purposes wherein the permission is not required such as criticism, commentary, research, news reporting, teaching and scholarship. However, if any act does not qualify as fair use, then the same has to be executed after due permission from the holder. In furtherance to which, the compensation can be negotiated between the right holder and the prospective user. Unfortunately, there is no organization advocating in favour of the professional illustrators and therefore, the US artists rarely receive any compensation for the arbitrary exploitation of their reprographic rights. On the other hand, certain centres such as the Copyright Clearance Centre grants the licenses to universities, libraries, corporations and other users for photocopying the published material.
Rights in India
The reprographic rights in India are managed by the Indian Reprographic Rights Organization (IRRO). IRRO is registered by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. It is exclusively permitted to commence and carry on the copyright business of “reprographic rights in the field of literary works” in India. It is the sole authority in India to issue the licenses to users of the copyrighted works of its members and then collect royalties and distribute among them. The organization represents the owners of the literary works and provides the licenses on behalf of the creators. IRRO must accept the mandate from the owner of such rights for exclusive authorisation on his/her behalf and collecting the license fees. The licenses to the organizations seeking the use are provided on an annual basis for an annual fee. Herein, such individuals or organizations can copy endlessly for a year! The organization can enter into bilateral agreements with any foreign society and collect the licensing fees. The licensing fees is then distributed among the copyright owners as per the distribution scheme. The framework is regulated and ensures that no misuse of reprographic rights takes place.
RRO in the UAE
The UAE has opened its first reprographic rights management association in a ceremony at Sharjah’s House of Wisdom- the technologically advanced library and learning-centre complex opened by Sheikh Sultan in 2020and has been termed as UNESCO’s World Book Capital. Al Qasimi, the founding publisher of the Kalimat Group and patron of the Emirates Publishers Association, in her comments stated that the launch of the organization reflects a growing dependence on intangible assets or intellectual capital, as exemplified by the rapid expansion of the cultural and creative industries in the digital arena.
The UAE’s economic minister stated that they are thankful to Bodour Al Qasimi for establishing and launching the said association and for her continuous and amazing efforts and initiatives to foster the knowledge, culture and a creative environment in the UAE. The UAE has adopted a forward-looking vision of wise leadership and focused on the knowledge-based economy and is subsequently developing its legislative framework.
The pioneering ERRA is set to ensure that the creative artists and writers get their exclusive rights and actions against the infringers. In the country, the power of books has always been a driving force behind the cultural accomplishments and nurturing the young generation. The establishment is also a positive step in the future of the publishing industry. UAE has achieved certain publishing accomplishments and hence, the step is in the right direction. Copying and replicating someone else’s work has become easier in the digital world and thus, an authority for its regulation is essential. Simultaneously, the check and balance on the fair use of the copyrighted material by stakeholders and different organizations. Thus, the step is in favour of the UAE economy.